Paul Canellopoulos was born in Athens in 1906. Son of the Canellopoulos family, the industrialist Angelos Canellopoulos and Eleni Economou, he expressed an early affinity for knowledge. At the age of 15, he travelled to Munich to study law, literature and chemistry.
The beginnings of his collecting journey began in 1923, with the acquisition of two remarkable icons, the Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas, dating back to the beginning of the 16th century. He focused his interest on the 16th century throughout his time in Germany, succeeding in locating an additional 45 Greek works of art, mostly iconography, which had been brought there by Bavarians – members of King Otto’s entourage.
After his graduation in 1927, he travelled throughout Europe, particularly to Italy and Spain. He combined his collecting activities with the study of Art History and Archaeology. The recovery of works of Greek culture, and their return to their native land, gradually became the purpose of his life. In 1940 he obtained a license to collect Greek and Byzantine antiquities.
“Many people in later years have asked me how I got the idea of becoming a collector of Greek art,” he stated in his book “Thoughts”. “I never imagined that I would become one; it happened without my realizing it. It feels like learning to swim and floating on water, or riding a bicycle and standing on two wheels. The difference between me and other collectors is that it wasn’t something I aspired to, but the love of beauty brought me there almost automatically.”
He returned to Greece as a volunteer on the Albanian front. In 1945, he took over the reins of TITAN S.A. as CEO. After 1979, he contributed to the company as President.
Paul Canellopoulos met the companion of his life, Alexandra Londos. Their shared vision for Culture formed an unbreakable bond between them. They married in 1945 and lived in harmony until Paul’s death in 2003. The couple’s immediate social circle included historians, academics and archaeologists, with whom they developed a fruitful, dialogue on issues of History and Art.
“I was, the last visitor to leave the galleries”, Paul Canellopoulos wrote in his ‘Thoughts’. “I remained in them, ecstatic, for hours on end, and my love of beauty was growing.”
An impressively diverse personality, he was not only a keen collector, but also an extremely active scholar, participating in scientific committees for the promotion of Greek Cultural Heritage.
The Museum, with its establishment in 1976, was for him the realization of his dream. Such was his love that even at an advanced age, and despite his significant visual impairment, he never stopped his regular visits while personally offering guided tours, rooted in his deep knowledge and inexhaustible love for Art and Archaeology.
Paul Canellopoulos, an intellectual man and a eupatrid, was honoured many times by the Greek State and foreign governments for his work and his contribution to the nation. He was feeling deeply emotional and proud, for receiving the Albanian Campaign Medal 1940 (War Cross) “for his heroic effort during the operations” during the Greek-Italian war.